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A solar deity also sun goddess or sun god is a sky deity who represents the Sun , or an aspect of it, usually by its perceived power and strength. Solar deities and Sun worship can be found throughout most of recorded history in various forms. The Neolithic concept of a "solar barge" also "solar bark", "solar barque", "solar boat" and "sun boat", a mythological representation of the Sun riding in a boat is found in the later myths of ancient Egypt , with Ra and Horus. Predynasty Egyptian beliefs attribute Atum as the sun-god and Horus as a god of the sky and Sun.

The myth of Egypt and its hieroglyphs in European tradition

British Broadcasting Corporation Home. There has long been a fascination in Britain with the world of ancient Egypt. What is it about this mysterious civilisation that so catches the imagination?

Five thousand years ago the chain of independent city-states lining the River Nile united to form one long, thin country ruled by one king, or pharaoh. Almost instantly a highly distinctive culture developed. For almost 30 centuries Egypt remained the foremost nation in the Mediterranean world. The unique culture was quickly buried beneath successive layers of Greek, Roman and Arabic tradition, and all knowledge of Egypt's glorious past was lost.

Only the decaying stone monuments, their hieroglyphic texts now unreadable, survived as silent witnesses to a long lost civilisation. Some 2, years on, however, the ancient hieroglyphs have been decoded and Egyptology - the study of ancient Egypt - is booming. At a time when Latin and ancient Greek are rapidly vanishing from the school curriculum, more and more people are choosing to read hieroglyphs in their spare time.

And the Egyptian galleries of our museums are packed with visitors, while the galleries dedicated to other ancient cultures remain empty. To emphasise the point, University Egyptology courses are full to bursting, and night school classes are attracting increasing numbers of people happy to spend their leisure hours studying the far distant past. This obvious interest has become self-fulfilling. Publishers and television producers are happy to invest in ancient Egypt because they know that there will be an appreciative audience for their work, and every new book, each new programme, attracts more devotees to the subject.

All ancient civilisations have contributed in some way to the development of modern society. All therefore are equally deserving of study. Why then do so many people choose to concentrate on Egypt? What does the culture of ancient Egypt offer the modern world that other cultures - those of Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, or China - do not? Those who have been bitten by the Egyptology bug cite a variety of reasons for their addiction - the beauty of the art, the skill of the craftsmen, the intricacies of the language, the certainties of the priests - or even a vague, indefinable feeling that the Egyptians came as close as is humanly possible to living a near-perfect life.

Individually these would all be good reasons to study any ancient civilisation. Combined, and tinged with the glamour bestowed by some of the world's most flamboyant archaeologists, they make an irresistible package. We know so much about the daily lives of the ancient Egyptians - we can read their words, meet their families, feel their clothes, taste their food and drink, enter their tombs and even touch their bodies - that it seems that we almost know them.

And knowing them, maybe even loving them, we feel that we can understand the very human hopes and fears that dominated their lives. Some of these myths passed from Egypt to Rome, and have had a direct effect on the development of modern religious belief.

Preserved in their writings and coded into their artwork the Egyptians asked, and answered, the questions that all societies ask. What happens after death? How was the world created? Where does the sun go at night? Lacking any real scientific understanding they answered their own questions with a series of myths and legends designed to explain the otherwise inexplicable. Reading and understanding the ancient stories allows us to abandon our modern preconceptions, step outside our own cultural experiences and enter a very different, life-enhancing world.

But, by no means everything about ancient Egypt is fully understood. This lack of certainty over some issues simply adds to the subject's appeal. There are enough unanswered questions - How were obelisks raised? Who was Nefertiti?

Where is the lost capital of Itj-Tawi? The River Nile flows northwards through the centre of Egypt, bringing much needed water to an otherwise arid part of north-east Africa. Their total dependence on the River Nile as a source of water and a means of transport had a deep impact on the way that the Egyptians saw the world.

Their sun god, the falcon-headed Re, did not cross the heavens in a flaming chariot, he sailed sedately in a solar boat. Parallel to the Nile on both banks of the river runs the Black Land - the narrow strip of fertile soil that allowed the Egyptians to practice the most efficient agriculture in the ancient world. Beyond the Black Land lies the inhospitable Red Land, the desert that once served as a vast cemetery, and beyond the Red Land are the cliffs that protected Egypt from unwelcome visitors.

Believing that the soul could live beyond death, the Egyptians buried their dead in the Red Land, with all the goods they considered they would need in what they thought of as the 'afterlife'. While their mud-brick houses have dissolved and their stone temples have decayed, their desert tombs have survived relatively intact, the dry conditions encouraging the preservation of such delicate materials as plaster, wood, papyrus, cloth, leather and skin.

This wealth of objects, of course, creates a highly biased collection of artefacts. The lives and possessions of the poor are under-represented, and we can never be certain that the goods so carefully provided for the dead were representative of the goods used in daily life. Nevertheless, the contents of Egypt's tombs, supplemented by the illustrations on the tomb walls, have allowed specialists to develop a greater understanding of Egyptian material technology than of any other ancient civilisation.

The pyramid form, in particular, still pays an important role in modern architecture, and can be seen rising above cemeteries and innumerable shopping centres, and at the new entrance to the Louvre Museum, Paris.

The original pyramids serve as a testament to the mathematical skill of the Egyptians, a skill that stimulated Greek mathematicians, including Pythagoras, to perfect their work. The Great Pyramid, built by Khufu Cheops in BC, for example, stands an impressive 46m ft high, with a slope of 51degrees. Its sides, with an average length of m ft , vary by less than 5cm 2in. Higher than St Paul's Cathedral, the pyramid was aligned with amazing accuracy almost exactly to true north.

But the pyramids are more than mathematical puzzles. They hold the key to understanding the structure of Egyptian society. The pyramids were built, not by the gangs of slaves often portrayed by Hollywood film moguls, but by a workforce of up to 5, permanent employees, supplemented by as many as 20, temporary workers, who would work for three or four months on the pyramid site, before returning home.

The bureaucracy that we know lay behind this operation is staggering. Not only did the workforce have to be summoned, housed and fed, but administrators also had to coordinate the supplies of stone, rope, fuel and wood that were needed to support the building work.

Pyramid studies confirm that a pre-mechanical society can, given adequate resources and the will to succeed, achieve great things. Pyramid building would have been impossible without strong government backed up by an efficient civil service. No wonder many archaeologists believe that, while the Egyptians undeniably built the pyramids, the pyramids also built Egypt. Relief showing a woman of ancient Egypt, giving birth.

The goddess Hathor, protector of women during childbirth, assists on either side. Unlike those of other ancient societies, the Egyptians were experienced in dissecting corpses because, believing that their souls needed an earthly body, they preserved their dead as mummies.

Their eviscerated, dried and bandaged bodies were once regarded as useless curiosities to be unwrapped, stripped of their jewellery, then discarded, and the archaeological literature is full of horrific stories of unwanted mummies being burned as torches, ground into pigment, processed into brown paper and even dispensed as stomach medicine for the rich and gullible.

Today attitudes to the long-deceased have changed and it is no longer considered appropriate to destroy a mummy out of mere curiosity. However, the countless mummies, already unwrapped, stored in the world's museums and universities offer an incomparable source of ancient human tissue. The Manchester Mummy Project, led by Professor Rosalie David, has worked in close conjunction with Manchester University's medical faculties to develop a multi-disciplinary methodology for the examination of ancient human remains.

Their work has not only provided a wealth of information about the health of the ancient Egyptians, it has provided useful information to scientists engaged in the struggle to eliminate the parasitical infestation bilharzia schistosomiasis which still plagues the Nile Valley.

In its worst, untreated form, bilharzia can lead to the development of cancer. The study of Egyptian art, of genealogy or hieroglyphs, is above all, however, the greatest of fun.

The Egyptologists have noted that both ancient and modern bilharzia infection can be identified by testing for the presence of antibodies. This suggests that the parasite has remained fundamentally unchanged since ancient Egyptian times. It is hoped that the study of bilharzia worms discovered in mummies may eventually help determine those parts of their genetic code that cause the development of cancer.

So far we have considered a series of worthy reasons why ancient Egypt is important to the modern world. Egypt offers inspiration, stimulation, valuable knowledge and an insight into our own modern culture. One very important reason, however, has been overlooked. Search term:.

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Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets CSS if you are able to do so. This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving. A popular subject Five thousand years ago the chain of independent city-states lining the River Nile united to form one long, thin country ruled by one king, or pharaoh.

Beneath the bandages Relief showing a woman of ancient Egypt, giving birth. Egyptology today Their work has not only provided a wealth of information about the health of the ancient Egyptians, it has provided useful information to scientists engaged in the struggle to eliminate the parasitical infestation bilharzia schistosomiasis which still plagues the Nile Valley.

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The Book of the Dead was Egyptians' inside guide to the underworld

British Broadcasting Corporation Home. There has long been a fascination in Britain with the world of ancient Egypt. What is it about this mysterious civilisation that so catches the imagination? Five thousand years ago the chain of independent city-states lining the River Nile united to form one long, thin country ruled by one king, or pharaoh. Almost instantly a highly distinctive culture developed.

The Book of the Dead , which was placed in the coffin or burial chamber of the deceased, was part of a tradition of funerary texts which includes the earlier Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts , which were painted onto objects, not written on papyrus. Some of the spells included in the book were drawn from these older works and date to the 3rd millennium BCE. A number of the spells which make up the Book continued to be separately inscribed on tomb walls and sarcophagi , as the spells from which they originated always had been. There was no single or canonical Book of the Dead. The surviving papyri contain a varying selection of religious and magical texts and vary considerably in their illustration. Some people seem to have commissioned their own copies of the Book of the Dead , perhaps choosing the spells they thought most vital in their own progression to the afterlife. The Book of the Dead was most commonly written in hieroglyphic or hieratic script on a papyrus scroll, and often illustrated with vignettes depicting the deceased and their journey into the afterlife.

Egypt has had a legendary image in the Western world through the Greek and Hebrew traditions. Egypt was already ancient to outsiders, and the idea of Egypt has continued to be at least as influential in the history of ideas as the actual historical Egypt itself. After Late Antiquity , the Old Testament image of Egypt as the land of enslavement for the Hebrews predominated, and " Pharaoh " became a synonym for despotism and oppression in the 19th century. However, Enlightenment thinking and colonialist explorations in the late 18th century renewed interest in ancient Egypt as both a model for, and an exotic alternative to, Western culture , particularly as a Romantic source for classicizing architecture. Herodotus , in his Histories , Book II, gives a detailed if selectively coloured and imaginative description of ancient Egypt. He praises peasants' preservation of history through oral tradition, and Egyptians' piety. He lists the many animals to which Egypt is home, including the mythical phoenix and winged serpent , and gives inaccurate descriptions of the hippopotamus and horned viper.

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Egyptian Hieroglyphs

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For centuries, Egyptian royalty guarded the sacred rituals that guaranteed divine favor after death, but over time all Egyptians, both rich and poor, could possess its secrets. In , the German Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius transformed understanding of Egyptian spirituality after he published a collection of ancient mortuary texts. For centuries, it was assumed the writings found in Egyptian tombs were passages from ancient scripture.

This article discusses the sources for Egyptian hieroglyphs, language and epigraphy, and 'Egyptomania' in Egypt and Rome. Egyptian scribes continued to compose lengthy and stylistically complex hieroglyphic texts on temple walls and other media well into the early third century ce. Contemporaneous religious manuals and other papyri, meanwhile, attest to a concentrated effort to codify and transmit this written knowledge within temple libraries. The system of Egyptian hieroglyphs fascinated most prominent Roman scholars of the Second Sophistic, and the mystical interpretations of Horapollo influenced European thinkers through the Renaissance.

11 Egyptian Gods and Goddesses

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